Head very much still on his hunky shoulders, Farhan Akhtar chats with Shweta Kulkarni about success, marriage and their side effects!
His last release BHAAG MILKHA BHAAG is on a winning spree, bagging almost every award at most awards do. Needless to say, the award for Best Actor in a Leading Role is unanimously conferred upon Farhan Akhtar for his performance in the biopic. Appreciation for him has come from every corner, not only in terms of praise but also in the form of box office figures. One would expect a slightly high-handed Farhan post such mammoth success… However, when I meet him during a song recording session for his forthcoming film SHAADI KE SIDE EFFECTS, he appears as humble as ever.
Running short on time after the recording, he requests me to travel with him and conduct the interview on the move. Post a series of embarrassing moments – when my voice recorder gives up on me! – we finally begin our chat about movies, married life and success, in the midst of the heavy Mumbai traffic with the interview being recorded on Farhan’s phone! Excerpts from our tête-à-tête…
BHAAG MILKHA BHAAG is receiving accolades and so much appreciation…
It’s a wonderful feeling. It is quite amazing how, when you are working on films, you do not realise what the potential of the film really can be. Not that you can think about it; you can’t plan it, you can’t design these things, but when a film connects in such a way and when people recognise the effort that went into the film, when people decide to call it the Film Of The Year, you know it feels very special. The fact that it has been over 6-7- months that the film has released… I mean, of course there is an awards function honouring the so-called best work of the year, but that’s a job people have to do… Apart from that, you know, in daily life, when you travel around and you meet people and they still talk to you about it, that is a very, very special feeling.
And amid all this, what happens when a snide remark comes along, especially for something that you are praised for by millions? Did Naseeruddin Shah’s comment that you didn’t look like Milkha Singh and that the film was fake, dishearten you?
No, no, I think Naseer sa’ab is extremely entitled to his opinion. Actually, I did not feel so strange about his opinion because he is a viewer of the film; he has his reaction so it does not trouble me. Personally, what I found strange is that he is somebody I have known for many years. He is somebody who knows me, and I think it would have been very nice of him as a senior actor and as somebody who knows me, who knows Zoya, who knows my family, to call me and probably have a chat with me saying that I saw your film and this is what I felt. So I just felt his method of communicating was a bit strange. To me, that is the only thing I felt was strange because it’s someone who knows me and knows me since I was very young, and the route he took was a little distasteful.
So criticism and unkind words towards your work don’t really upset you…
It happens all the time! I mean, we do a film, we do what we think is the right thing to do… Everyone has their concepts. If I tell you a story now, if I read out a script to you now, you will have your own imagination as to what the set will be like, what the actors will be wearing – everybody has their take. Sometimes you go to watch a film, which you might have imagined to be something, and you do not agree with it and you do not like it, which it totally fine. You paid for your ticket, so you have a right to have an opinion. If the director of the film that you didn’t like is a friend of yours, I think you will call up that person and speak to them…that’s the only thing I feel. That’s the one thing I singularly felt strange about. I did not feel hurt by his comment nor do I question his comment at all.
And one comment or a few contrary opinions don’t change the film’s box office victory. However, success is known to change people, especially in this industry, often causing one to act and think differently… Has success altered your life?
Of course it does but I would hope, for myself, that it makes me a lot more responsible to other people. I think arrogance is very dangerous, especially when you find yourself in a position of some kind of power or where your opinion matters. I think then you have to be exceedingly responsible about your actions and your words. The scariest thing that can happen – and I hope it does not happen to me, but I think it won’t because I am surrounded by people who are very, very grounded – is that you start believing in your success and start believing that it is always going to be there. Nothing is permanent. What I have understood is - enjoy it but at the same time don’t get high on it.
Your next film SHAADI KE SIDE EFFECTS is all set to release and now post BHAAG… people have very high expectations of you. Does it stress you as a performer? No, not really, it’s not stressing me out. I think what people want from you - and I think this applies to whether you direct, act, do music, whatever - is the sense that you are doing it honestly, that there is no taking the viewer for granted, that there is no ulterior motive in your involvement in a certain film. So I feel that one should just work honestly and that, when the audience sees it on the screen, they connect with it.
You have been married for 14 years… Does shaadi really have any side effects?
Of course it does, it has many side effects. The thing is, it is up to the individual to decide whether the side effects are good for him/her or not good for him/her. But of course your life changes on a huge level post marriage. You make certain commitments; you have taken on some responsibilities to share your life with someone and to be trustworthy enough, and to be honest enough that somebody will share their life with you, so it is a huge responsibility. And of course when two people are living together, whether it’s in a marriage, or even siblings, they do fight. The reason is everyone is constantly changing, including you, but the strength lies in not losing sight, not forgetting what you really enjoy about each other. And you know, if you can keep that focus you can always have a successful marriage. As I said, it’s an individual thing… whether you want to or you don’t want to, is your call. But if you want to, it’s an amazing feel. And to have a companion who wishes you well, wishes you good health, wishes you love and similarly you wish the same for the other person, then why would you not want that?
Do you relate to your character from SHAADI KE SIDE EFFECTS in any way?
I relate to the aspect of having cold feet before having our first child. You know, it’s very normal for a person to feel that because there’s a part of you telling you that there is a huge responsibility coming your way. For me, at that point, I had not even started making DIL CHAHTA HAI and there were these responsibilities coming my way... I was not prepared for it. Maybe there are people who will not get affected by it, but that I am not. So when you are thinking there is another human being going to enter the world and going to be a part of your life and he/she is your responsibility, it’s scary especially when you don’t have anything. At that point, I was still struggling to find my feet, about whether DIL CHAHTA HAI would be made or not. All these things were playing on my mind… so I connected with that aspect of the character. Also, the character in the film is a struggling musician, who wants to make his first album, who has not yet cut his first album, and is a bit worried about how he will take care of the child and where all the money will come from and things like that. So I completely understood that feeling. Also, what happens is when you are bogged down with all these thoughts, it starts taking a toll on your relationship with your partner. And, at times, communication is difficult as you are not able to tell them your worries. So that aspect I connect with in the film but how he deals with it in the film is beyond how I would deal with it. There is some kind of heightened reality in films so that people can universally connect with it. The aspect of the couple being on the verge of having a child, the anxiety, the cold feet that can come into the parent, that comes into the mothers…that’s what I connected with.
You have two kids, so does the anxiety of having a baby settle down the second time around?
What I have realised is that human beings treat their first child like they are made out of porcelain. We feel like they will break! We are so careful with them and by the time they are three-four years old you realise that children are tough, they are strong. But it’s kind of a parental thing that when they fall you rush, when something small happens to them you get worried. However, with the second one we already know they are strong. It is more relaxed with the child when it is the second time around because we have gone through it before and we know what to expect. So that’s why I think their personalities are so different… between the elder and the younger one. Your wife Adhuna Akhtar is a working woman, plus you are also busy with your work, so how do you manage time for each other and family with such erratic time schedules? You know, she has an exceptionally successful business that she runs, they are also expanding… mushrooming in different places, and I understand that about her. So we try and find a balance. When she has to be somewhere, I know that I have to give time to the house, and similarly the other way around is how it is. However, these things again, it’s not like you take out a calendar and mark out dates; it happens out of the importance for the other person in your life, that you realise that this thing is important to them. They have to go ahead and do it, they should go ahead and do it, it will be good for them, it will be good learning for them. So that understanding is very important and then you try and compensate and try to figure out what it is that you can do to make them feel comfortable when they are out doing what they have to do. It is as simple as that.
This article first appeared in February 2014 issue of Cine Blitz magazine